Late last week, supermarket chain Kroger announced its new partnership with plant-based food brand Impossible Foods and Custom Made Meals, LLC, which makes fresh entrees and appetizers for retail.
For now, neither company has revealed the specific details about what type of products are in the works. But, what we do know so far (based on what was said at Kroger’s investor day) is that they will be made for the supermarket’s Home Chef brand. Kroger acquired Home Chef for $200 million in 2018 and today, it’s worth $1 billion. The delivery service features more than 500 products including meal kits, heat-and-serve meals, ready-to-eat products, and seasonal meals.
Theoretically, Impossible Foods could fit into any of those categories. The Silicon Valley company is experienced with developing products for the food industry, ranging from the wildly popular Burger King Impossible Whopper to ready-made Buitoni ravioli. Its own product line includes plant-based burgers, meatless ground beef, and vegan chicken nuggets.
Kroger is also no stranger to the plant-based food industry. The retailer, which is the biggest supermarket chain in the US, launched its Simple Truth Plant Based line in 2019 to court vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian customers. It now includes more than 50 vegan products such as oat milk ice cream, plant-based cheese, and dairy-free yogurt, plus vegan burgers, nuggets, and deli slices.
Is co-branding the latest plant-based food trend?
Robert Moskow, a food and food retail analyst at Credit Suisse, New York, speculated that the line could feature co-branded plant-based meat products, “similar to the co-branding strategy that Costco’s Kirkland brand uses in the fresh meat case with big suppliers like Tyson.”
He added: “We view this test as a threat to Beyond Meat, because it demonstrates the willingness of a big competitor to ‘margin down’ into co-branded private label products in order to maximize its products.”
The partnership between Impossible Foods and Kroger is yet another recent example of co-branding in the plant-based food industry. Competitor Beyond Meat revealed its partnership with PepsiCo, the second-largest food and beverage company in the world, last year. It has also developed plant-based meat for major chains including McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Earlier this month, Chilean food tech startup NotCo and Kraft Heinz announced their own co-branding team-up.
Co-branding may be shaping up to be the industry’s next big trend. Working with bigger brands helps companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and NotCo get more plant-based food in front of people. And this is vital at a time when UN reports suggest an urgent transition away from industrial animal agriculture, which is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, for the sake of the planet.
Impossible Foods’ and Kroger’s co-branded products could potentially launch in the chain’s nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states. It’s a small step, but the planet needs every step it can get.